France: At photojournalism’s biggest annual festival, a Myanmar photographer won the top prize for his coverage of the country’s pro-democracy protests and bloody crackdown.
Photographer, who remains anonymous for security reasons, won the Visa d’Or for News, the most prestigious award presented at the ‘Visa Pour L’Image’ festival in Perpignan, southwest France. The New York Times’ Asia photo editor, Mikko Takkunen, collected the prize on behalf of the photographer.
Following the February 1 coup, Myanmar has been in turmoil, with near-daily protests and a large civil disobedience movement. ‘He is probably the strongest photographer in the country. He is extremely happy and honoured to win this prize,’ Takkunen said.
Takkunen said the photographer dedicated the award to his peers in his country who work under incredibly difficult circumstances. In his photographs, armed protesters throw stones at soldiers, bullets are fired by soldiers, and grieving families mourn their dead.
Over 1,000 civilians have been killed in Myanmar’s ongoing military crackdown, according to an advocacy group. Press freedom has been stifled as the junta tightens control over the flow of information by throttling internet access and revoking the licenses of local media outlets.
In a message, the anonymous photographer said he has been ‘on the streets every day since February 1.’ ‘I encountered many difficulties, working between bullet shots, tear gas and deafening grenades. On the ground, we stopped working with helmets marked PRESS as we realised the soldiers were targeting photographers,’ he said.
A Greek photographer was nominated for his work on the last days migrants and asylum seekers spent in the Moria refugee camp on Lesbos, which was cleared after devastating fires.
American Erin Schaff from The New York Times was also nominated for photographs depicting the storming of the US Capitol in Washington.
Reuters’ Danish Siddiqui was nominated for his coverage of the health crisis following the Coronavirus pandemic in India. In July, he was killed while covering fighters of the Taliban and Afghan forces.